Michigan State Baseball Announces 2017 Schedule

Even with over three months until the season Michigan State baseball released its full 2017 53-game regular-season schedule.

Though at the top of the Big Ten standings most of last season and a decent B1G tournament run, MSU was left out of the NCAA tournament. It wasn’t hard to decipher why either as the Spartans lacked key wins and their RPI was way too high.

It’s unusual for a coach to bring up things like strength of schedule and RPI, as most give the answer of something along the lines of “if we win all our games we’ll be fine.” But manager Jake Boss Jr. emphasized RPI in Wednesday’s press conference.

“We are excited to put together a very competitive schedule, and I think one that has several good RPI opportunities that will hopefully put us in a position at the end of the season for postseason play,” Boss told MSU Athletic Communications.

Recognizing why his Spartan teams haven’t been to the NCAA tournament since 2012, Boss continued with comments about RPI.

“It’s a very balanced schedule. I think again we get the regional atmospheres in a couple different places. We get some very good RPI opportunities for the top to the bottom of the schedule,” Boss told MSUAC. “With the way the RPI is, playing on the road a couple different places, it’s going to be important. With being in the north, we go on the road for the first month, so it’s very challenging there.”

MSU’s RPI will be lifted by what should be a very strong Big Ten conference this year. Although it’s difficult for northern baseball to get recognition, teams like Illinois, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Nebraska and Ohio State can make a mark in the postseason despite 2016’s poor showing.

So who are the teams MSU faces that make up this strong schedule?

Per usual, MSU will start their season where it’s warm in Abilene, Texas for a four game set against the Wildcats of Abilene Christian on Feb. 17. The Wildcats are coming off a 16-37 season.

A weekday matchup on March 8 against the Clemson Tigers will be the first of 14 games MSU plays against 2016 NCAA Tournament teams, an impressive job from the Spartan staff to produce a strong 2017 schedule. That same weekend, MSU will take on the 2011 national champion and perennial powerhouse South Carolina Gamecocks for a three game series.

“Our scheduling philosophy is that I think it’s important for our players to see different parts of the country during their four-year time at Michigan State,” Boss told MSUAC.

MSU opens at home on March 22 as the Chippewas of Central Michigan take the hour bus ride to East Lansing. The Spartans were 2-1 against the Chips last season.

It will prove rather difficult for MSU to repeat its 8-2 start of 2016 in Big Ten play as they kick off conference play against Illinois in Champaign. The Illini have been one of the most consistent Big Ten teams in the past few seasons despite missing the conference tournament.

A big issue last year was lack of quality midweek games, not an easy problem to solve as the players are still student athletes who have class on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. This makes it difficult for schools to leave the state to take on a stronger opponent than the usual matchups against CMU, Eastern Michigan, and Western Michigan. They will take on that triad of schools a total of six times.

One way MSU tried to combat that problem is by landing a series at home against the Fresno State Bulldogs in the first week of April. The Bulldogs haven’t made it to the tournament since 2012 either — where MSU faced them in regionals — but have a positive tournament history throughout the 2000’s, appearing eight times.

Other notable matchups include Ohio State at home in April and the Spartans taking their first trip to Nebraska ever on May 12.

MSU finished 36-20 overall and 13-11 in the Big Ten last season.